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Singing for FreedomThe Hutchinson Family Singers and the Nineteenth-Century Culture of Reform$
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Scott Gac

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780300111989

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300111989.001.0001

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Opening Theme: The Hutchinson Family Singers as Reformers

Opening Theme: The Hutchinson Family Singers as Reformers

(p.4) Opening Theme: The Hutchinson Family Singers as Reformers
Singing for Freedom

Scott Gac

Yale University Press

This chapter presents the Hutchinson Family Singers' story, which details a vibrant cultural space created by waves of reform pulsating through the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Hutchinsons transformed themselves from backwoods, church-trained musicians to the most popular musical family in America in 1841. Their musical metamorphosis relied upon first, the well-liked melodies of blackface minstrelsy and of church hymns to which the group added its own lyrics, and second, harmonized chorus refrains, the standard in today's popular music but quite new to antebellum America. The Hutchinsons' relationship with the American antislavery movement began in early 1840, when advocates asked the group to create abolitionist tunes similar to the temperance songs that they were already performing. Bridging the significant gaps between various factions, the Hutchinsons functioned as unifiers of abolitionist reform.

Keywords:   Hutchinson Family Singers, musical metamorphosis, American antislavery movement, abolitionist reform

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